Many would not be aware that Forest Range and Lenswood hosted soldiers captured during World War 2 as labourers for farms. Many of the local men were away fighting and the “prisoners of war” provided valuable labour. Some families took on internees as labourers including Frank Hackett, Roy Mason, Max Vickers and Harry Rowley. Joyce Leslie (nee Rowley) recalled that the supervisor from Inverbrackie used to come to collect wages and ensure that the arrangements were succeeding. Rowley’s had a little building behind their house for their workers.
One of the Italian prisoners of war who worked in Lenswood was Aldo Montecchi who worked for Frank Morgan Hackett on Roger’s Lane at Lenswood. Aldo was a farmer in Italy before the war. He was born in January 1915. On 16 April 1941 Aldo, then a private in the Italian infantry, was captured in Libya and shipped to Australia for internment, arriving in Sydney on the Queen Mary on 27 May 1941. He was 26 years old and left a wife, Angiolina and a daughter at home in Italy. We are not yet sure where he was housed with the Hackett family. He stayed in Australia until 1946.
Alfonso Terrano and Sergio Barragazzi were also Italian prisoners of war at Lenswood, although at this time we are not sure who they worked for.
Although rules were laid down for the ‘control’ of the prisoners of war in reality many were treated just like Australian workers and sometimes freedoms were granted that went beyond the rules. Internees were not supposed to mix with other internees or to “fraternise” with the public. However the local internees were welcomed by other Italian compatriots living at Lenswood, in particular Vincenzo Morabito. A newspaper report of the time records Vincenzo Morabito getting into legal trouble for hosting the internees.
Vincenzo Morabito worked for Max Vickers and built a home on what is now known as Leslie Road. That corrugated iron home is shown below. It was later purchased by Bob and Joyce Leslie and evolved into the house that we now know at 121 Leslie Road, Lenswood.
Below is a photo of Vincenzo Morbito’s home and a group of Italian friends and family. It is likely that the photo below was taken the event mentioned on the newspaper above, or a similar event.
Follow the link below to see more letters and photos sent to us by Aldo’s grandson Corrado Ferrari from his grandfather’s collection. Note that Joy Bird in the images was Joy Hackett before her marriage (daughter of Frank and May). Also included are photos of the Hackett home on Roger’s Lane, Forest Range Hotel and a mystery barn and shed photo.
Please contact us if you have more information on the prisoners of war who were in our district or more to add to this story. Particular thanks to Corrado Ferrari.
1945 ‘Italian Fined; Entertained War Captives’, News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 29 May, p. 3. , viewed 25 Nov 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127038212
Collection of Aldo Montecchi from Corrado Ferrrari circa mid 1940s. Merabito names supplied by Joyce and Bob Leslie, who later purchased the Merabito home on Leslie Road.